Argentina’s Milei seeks support for omnibus bill as opposition warns ‘chainsaw’ is about to begin From Reuters


©Reuters. Law enforcement officers spray demonstrators as they protest outside the National Congress on the day of debate on Argentine President Javier Milei’s economic reform bill, known as the “omnibus bill,” in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan. 31, 2024.


By Walter Bianchi

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine libertarian President Javier Milei’s government is racing to secure votes in Congress for its key “omnibus” reform bill that entered the lower house on Wednesday, even as the left-wing opposition has pledged to oppose.

The bill, which ranges from economic policy to the privatization of state entities, is one of the main planks of Milei’s reform push to address the worst economic crisis in the South American country in decades, with inflation exceeding 200% and state coffers dry.

It is his first major test since taking office in December, following a shock election victory for the economist who made a name for himself as an acid-tongued TV pundit and campaigned with a chainsaw promising to cut spending and the size of the state.

Milei faces a major challenge getting the bill passed with his coalition having only a minority in both houses, meaning he must win over allies. Last week her government removed a controversial tax section from the bill to boost support.

“Today, politicians have a chance to begin reversing the damage they have caused to the Argentine people,” Milei’s office said in a post Wednesday, urging lawmakers to support the bill as an expected mammoth debate began by legislators.

In a sign of future challenge, however, the main Peronist opposition bloc, Union por la Patria, which is the largest group in Congress, said it would reject the bill, posting a photo with the slogan “No to the bill Omnibus” on X, formerly Twitter.

“We reject the Omnibus bill because it puts fuel in Milei’s chainsaw to harm the daily lives of Argentines,” wrote Peronist politician and former Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, in reference to his austerity plans to reverse a deep fiscal deficit.

If the law is approved by the lower house – a debate that will likely extend beyond Wednesday – it will pass the Senate next week. Investors are watching closely, hoping the scaled-down version passes, which would strengthen local markets.

“The Omnibus bill now has a better chance of passing Congress,” said Morgan Stanley’s Fernando Sedano.

“We continue to believe that passing sweeping reforms is positive for the medium-term outlook, even with a watered-down version of the original bill.”

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